Superintendent's Update

Sheldon Kowalchuk
Acting Superintendent
Wapusk National Park and Manitoba North National Historic Sites

Wapusk News - Volume 6, 2013

Sheldon Kowalchuk; Cam Elliott Sheldon Kowalchuk; Cam Elliott
© Parks Canada

I write this report with mixed emotions as this will be my final Superintendent’s Update. I have accepted a position at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park in southwestern Saskatchewan. The more than six years I have spent working for Parks Canada in Churchill has been a great adventure and experience. I was able to meet and work with many wonderful people as both the Resource Conservation Manager for four and a half years and as the Acting Superintendent for the past year and a half. Cam Elliott, who has been on an assignment with the Protected Areas Establishment Branch of Parks Canada working on a national park proposal for the Manitoba Lowlands natural region resumes his position at the beginning of April 2013 as the Superintendent for Wapusk National Park and the Manitoba North National Historic Sites.

The following is an update on a variety of topics on behalf of the Wapusk Management Board (WMB) and Parks Canada staff.

Throughout December 2012 and January 2013, Parks Canada advertised the opportunity for commercial businesses to apply for a business licence to guide paddlers down the Owl River in Wapusk National Park (NP) via canoe or kayak. This first offer for a commercial opportunity to offer paddling trips did not result in any licences being awarded at this time. However, Parks Canada is pleased to make this unique expedition opportunity available to independent travellers in 2013 as part of the new activities being offered to visitors to the park. In addition, a Notice of Intent will be advertised during the summer of 2013 and potential tour operators will be contacted who may be interested in pursuing a business licence to conduct guided dog sledding tours, guided over-snow vehicle tours and guided hiking and overnight stays in the park.

As part of the second phase of issuing business licences in Wapusk NP, licences have been prepared for aircraft charter companies and businesses hauling freight by oversnow vehicles. Addressing another opportunity identified in the park’s management plan, Parks Canada staff have been busy identifying locations that may be considered for development of a backcountry lodge. Areas not to be considered are those ecologically and culturally sensitive regions such as calving areas for the Cape Churchill caribou herd and polar bear summer congregation areas. This will help to ensure that if a backcountry lodge is developed in the park, the impact on the park’s ecological integrity will be minimal.

Public consultations took place during February 2013 on the implementation of a number of proposed new user fees for Wapusk NP. Overall, general support was expressed for the fee proposals, which are anticipated to come into effect later in 2013.

Parks Canada formalized working relationships with various partners through the signing of several Memorandums of Understanding, including with the Churchill Northern Studies Centre; ArcticNet (Schools on Tundra); and Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship (in review).

Both Frontiers North Adventures and Wat’chee Expeditions continued to take visitors into Wapusk NP in 2012-13. A project initiated by Polar Bears International and in the fall of 2012 provided Internet viewers access to live footage of polar bears from Cape Churchill in the park. This project is expected to continue in the future and possibly expand to include opportunities to view caribou. The WMB reviewed eleven research and collection permit applications at a conference call meeting in March 2013. Two projects will be of primary focus for the Board over the next couple of years. The first is to engage the trapping community on the management of trapping in the park, including the possibility of moving towards a Registered Fur Block , depending upon support for this initiative. The second project is the proposal to name approximately 30 currently unnamed lakes, creeks and other geographical features in the park. There will be opportunities for the public to participate and send in suggestions.

As I depart Churchill after six years, I recall that on my last trip to Wapusk NP I observed a wolverine and approximately 60 caribou in mid-March. Seeing this was as memorable as my first trip to the park in November 2006 when I observed approximately 15 polar bears. In closing, I hope all Canadians will visit their favourite park, connect with nature, and create similar memories to those that I have had the privilege of creating during my experiences in Wapusk NP.